There are times when the staff room in the practice can seem like a war zone. Okay… maybe it’s not that extreme, but serious conflict does occur. People aren’t getting along, not even speaking to each other. And, all too often, such situations are ignored in the hope that they’ll just go away.
The key to resolving conflict is to deal with it quickly, because the longer it continues, the worse it will get… until it’s beyond repair. The doctor or office manager should play a neutral role, sitting down with each party to understand the situation and then seek a resolution. Most office conflicts are interpersonal issues that don’t pose ethical or legal questions. The message has to be that the staff must function together in the office… that it’s a requirement of the job and that personal feelings have to be resolved, in the interest of providing outstanding customer service to patients. You must make it clear that ongoing conflict cannot and will not be tolerated.
Dentists have a hard time delivering this message. Most dentists fall into the passive-aggressive category (“I’ll ignore this and say nothing until I get annoyed enough to lash out.”) The problem with this approach is that you wait too long. In most cases, addressing conflict early and sending a strong message will let the staff members involved know that they need to settle down and get back to focusing on patients. Avoiding involvement also usually has a negative impact on other team members, who begin to take sides. Most of this can be avoided by dealing with conflict head on and without delay.
Dentists and office managers aren’t usually sitting in the staff room when conflict occurs, but you inevitably hear about it or at least feel that something isn’t right. Check in, ask questions and take a proactive approach. Make it clear that customer service is the number one priority and anything that detracts from it has to be resolved.
Watch Dr. Levin’s video “Interpersonal Relations – Get Along with Everyone,” by clicking here.
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